Honouring the Handiwork

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I am regularly given pieces of fabric, garments and bed linen to use for upcycling into Boomerang bags and other projects. In recent months I have acquired a large quantity of these items from a local thrift shop. These are pieces that are deemed to be unsuitable for sale for a variety of reasons. The process of diverting them to our group assists in saving these pieces from going to landfill.

We have discovered that simply washing some articles makes them usable again. Thrift shops are not laundry services so it is important that anything you choose to donate is clean.

Some stained and torn articles yield sections of good fabric which we are able to use.

However, there is one group of items we receive that can be a challenge. These are the partly completed craft projects. I have received pieces of embroidery, patchwork pieces and even fabric painting at times. I feel an emotional responsibility to utilise these pieces if at all possible. They represent effort and skill from an unknown maker and deserve to be honoured.

Here are a couple of examples I have recently completed.

A piece of calico with fabric painted flowers has become the front of this bag. It is complemented by plain blue handles and back of the bag.

A contrasting inside pocket completes the bag.

Several small strips of patchwork provided me with another challenge. I joined them in an acceptable pattern before making the rest of the bag in a matching navy fabric from a doona cover. The contrasting handles are a similar fabric to the patchwork and were lurking in my stash from another donation.

I am so glad that I have been able to give these pieces of handiwork an outcome which is so much better than landfill.

A Winter Bed

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We have a small dog. She is a Tenterfield terrier – very similar to a miniature fox terrier.

At slightly under 2 years old she is still a puppy in many ways. Chewing holes in her blanket is a favourite pastime. She had 2 blankets cut from a very large old polar fleece blanket but today I decided that I needed to rethink her bedding.

So, I made this cover from a piece of upholstery fabric which was lurking in my stash and placed the 2 blankets inside it.

The new bed appears to have gained a stamp of approval. We will see how long it lasts before being chewed.

Safely Salvaged

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I seem to have been gripped by a level of inertia which has been difficult to shake. I suppose you could call it writer’s block. I have plenty of material for blog posts but have simply not had the will or focus to actually write and publish them. Part of the problem has been the heavy focus on our upcoming federal government elections on Saturday. The other has been the weather. The rain was relentless for several days and even when it was not raining the humidity was 100%. Today was a little better but a return of the heavy rain is forecast for the next 3 days with a high likelihood of greater than 100mm (4 inches) over the weekend.

Anyway, enough of excuses and back to the title.

Today I want to address textile waste – garments, household linens and unused fabric.

As with anything, the best actions we can take to minimise waste are:

  1. Buy only what we actually need.
  2. Buy secondhand where possible.
  3. Take care of what we have to increase its longevity.
  4. Repair or upcycle if applicable.
  5. Ensure it is disposed of or recycled responsibly at the end of its useful life.

Most of us at some time have donated to or shopped at op shops but do you have any idea of what happens with the donations before they make it into the shop for sale?

Donations are received, sorted, priced and made available for sale. Many op shops are overwhelmed by donations and sadly, a portion of what is donated ends up as landfill. Donated items may be unsuitable, dangerous, damaged, soiled or otherwise unacceptable.

I routinely receive donated textiles which are otherwise destined for landfill and our local Boomerang Bags group are often able to use some of the fabric for making reusable bags.

However, sometimes I am surprised by some of what I receive. Remember, op shops do not provide a laundry service so it is make sure that your donations are in a state which is saleable. It is even a good idea to fold garments so that the volunteers can easily identify them as clean and cared-for clothing.

Today I soaked and laundered these three dresses which were in the last bundle saved from landfill. I can only only surmise that at least 2 of them had been deemed unacceptable due to the fact that they had not been laundered prior to donation.

They are all natural fibres (cotton and linen) and in good condition.

I have now sold 2 of them and the funds received have been donated to our local Waste Action group.

We should all do everything we can to ensure that we minimise what ends up in landfill.

Making the Most of Everything

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At the end of my last post I mentioned that I would share some details of the food preparation that I do.

In the past few weeks I have been fortunate to score some great bargains on fresh produce. A food bargain is only a bargain if you actually use the food. This can be a particular challenge with fresh produce but with a bit of know-how and some time you can make the most of bargains that may come your way.

Today I want to show you how I used and stored large quantities of cheap bananas, pineapples and tomatoes.

I bought a 10kg box of perfect, ripe Roma tomatoes for $10. $1/kg was too good to pass up. I could have bottled them straightaway but they were so firm, red and perfect that we decided to enjoy them fresh for as long as possible. I spread them out on a couple of racks so that would be able to easily identify any blemishes or potential rotten ones. Fresh tomato salsa was served with at least one and often two meals every day. Here is a selection of our meals.

L to R: Chicken tacos, Mexican quinoa and Baked potatoes with refried beans

This strategy worked well for just over 3 weeks which is testament to the perfect quality of the produce. In fact, I have no idea why they were being sold for $1/kg.

The remaining tomatoes were diced and packed into jars to go in the freezer. These will be added to casseroles and other dishes instead on buying canned tomatoes.

Next were the bananas. These were also $1/kg and I bought 12.5kg in a box. The bananas ranged from partly green to overripe but the majority were ripe and flavoursome although the skins were showing blemishes. We eat sliced banana on our cereal every day so about a dozen of the least ripe ones were added to fruit bowl to be eaten over the next week.

Two very ripe ones became banana cake and the remainder were peeled, cut in half and frozen on trays. They can be sliced and added to cereal with no further preparation.

You can see the less ripe bananas in the fruit bowls in the background as well as trays ready for the freezer and two bananas in the bowl which were about to be turned into banana cake.

Finally, the pineapples. I spotted this box of 5 pineapples for $4 and knew exactly how I could use them.

Dried pineapple is a delicious treat so it was a simple matter of peeling, coring and slicing the pineapple and then into the dehydrator. We like it semi-dried (a bit chewy but not crunchy). I store it in a container in the refrigerator.

L to R: Fresh pineapple ready to dehydrate, dried pineapple, ready to store in the refrigerator.

I would love to hear your stories of bargains or gluts and how you make sure they do not go to waste.

Community Connections

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Most of what I write about in this blog pertains to house and home. However, there is much more to my life. Extended family gatherings, cultural events, exercise, enjoying the natural environment and of course, travel are some of the various activities I enjoy. Travel has been somewhat curtailed in the past couple of years but we have still managed numerous shorter trips closer to home rather than major overseas travel.

The other thing that I am both passionate about and find satisfying is involvement in community groups and activities.

This week has seen plenty of action on that front. I am directly involved in 3 groups. The first and smallest is a local residents group for our semi-rural area. There is minimal action in this group but as the secretary I did attend a committee meeting this week and have minutes to finish and distribute.

The other two groups are separate but closely aligned in purpose.

The first is Boomerang Bags. This is a global grassroots project which was started on the Gold Coast in my home state of Queensland, Australia. It seeks to tackle single use plastic pollution by creating reusable alternatives from salvaged and discarded fabric. I have been involved for a little over 4 years, the last 2 co-ordinating our small group. One of my earlier posts gives a bit more information.

My other foray into community action is a fairly recently-formed waste action group which goes by the acronym of WAM. Late last year we co-ordinated several community events during National Recycling Week. There are many and varied ideas for directions the group might take but the overarching theme is about reducing consumption and waste, both of which are very important to me. I regularly address these themes on a personal level in my blog posts. Watch for more about we are doing as a community to encourage everyone to make a difference.

More Creations

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The weather has improved slightly. It is not raining but the clouds are practically sitting on our shoulders and the humidity remains above 90%. I am thinking of venturing out to the garden this afternoon but in the meantime I have continued sewing.

These pieces of fabric were given to me for Boomerang bags. They are strong, good quality cotton and are clearly furnishing samples. I decided to team them with existing fabric from my stash but the first job was to attach the pockets.

The completed bags.

A Mixed Bag

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The weather has been quite ghastly for the past couple of days so any kind of outdoor tasks were out of the question.

So, I settled myself into my workroom and decided to sew.

I made a top for myself from a remnant of fabric that had been given to me. The very simple pattern was taken from a top I had bought at an op shop a couple of years ago.

This was not the first time I had used the pattern. I made a blouse from a salvaged tablecloth a few weeks ago. It had some stains and was destined for landfill from our local charity shop. A quick soak solved most of the stain problem. I combined the pattern with a sleeve from a commercial pattern.

Back to today. I took the first tentative steps in making another quilt. This one is mostly muted green tonings. Four blocks done – about 45 to go. I will need a lot more fabric before that happens.

Finally, I made another Boomerang bag. As is often the case, I was feeling a bit ho-hum about the fabric colour combination but it turned out really well.

I have numerous other sewing projects underway but it is nice to be able to finish some and share them with you.

I am hopeful that the weather will improve in the next day or so and I will be able to spend some time outdoors.

Creating With Scraps

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One of my longer term projects is to use up the many and varied fabric pieces I have acquired from multiple sources.

When I was tidying up a few weeks ago I found various pieces of denim offcuts. Once I collected them all together I realised that there was a significant pile. Many were pieces that had been cut off when shortening new jeans. Others were salvaged from garments that were no longer wearable.

Using an existing apron for a template I made a pattern then a patchwork denim apron for myself. The neck strap, binding and ties were all salvaged or remnants.

After posting this photo on my Facebook page I was approached by a friend who asked if I was selling them. Well, not exactly, but I did agree to make her one. This time I even included pockets. These were salvaged from a pair of GMan’s old gardening jeans that had been patched so many times that he had recently declared that they were only fit for the rubbish. That was the case for most of them but the back pockets were still in good condition.

I used flat felled seams to replicate the seams normally seen on jeans. This also meant that there are no raw edges on the reverse of the apron.

My pile of denim offcuts is now much reduced, although I do still have enough for the occasional mending task.

Buy Nothing November – An Update

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It is nearly 2 weeks since I first posted about Buy Nothing November. You can read the first instalment here.

Since then we have bought 2 more physical items which have come into our home. The first is a rat trap which fairly self-explanatory and does not need a photo.

The second item is a timber storage box. I had been perusing secondhand sites for a few weeks as I was looking for a seat for my mini-mudroom. That is probably too grand a description as it is actually a corner of the workshop near the entrance to the house via the internal staircase. Anyway, I turned my attention from benches to storage boxes and found this timber box in a neighbouring town for $50. The storage space which a box affords is an added bonus to the original purpose of providing seating.

I will provide a final update at the end of the month.

Monday Mending

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I have a pair of jeans that were bought in 2012 and are becoming rather thin. This is particularly evident at the inner thighs and the tiny hole is becoming larger.

Although they are no longer my good jeans I still wear them regularly so decided to try my hand at patching them. I have patched jeans previously but usually with no consideration to the aesthetic as they were only for wearing in the garden. This time I was aiming for a better looking result.

This is what I had to work with.

2 patches cut from some denim offcuts.

Double-sided interfacing ironed onto the wrong side of the fabric patches.

Patches ironed onto the inside of the jeans.

Two rows of stitching around each patch to secure them.

I then turned the jeans to the outside and using a tight, wide zigzag stitch I stitched over the hole and the worst of the thin areas to reinforce them.

The view on the inside.

All finished.

Once they are washed these will be ready to wear again. After 9 years of consistent wear the jeans are getting a bit thin all over but I think I have extended the life for a bit. One or two years, perhaps? I don’t know but I do know that it was worth 20 minutes of my time and a small quantity of materials I had on hand to make these jeans wearable again.